My novel Valley of the Menhir starts with the coming of the Gods. An abbreviated version of this appears in 239. Morning of the Gods. Rem and Hea separate upon arrival. Rem begins to raise an army and sires a son, the Shambler, who will be the bane of his new world – and of Rem, himself. Hea, with the best of intentions, sets into motion forces she underestimates and soon cannot control.
In the world of the menhir, a soul, at death, is joined (enreithed) to a menhir, where it finds both peace and a dissolution of individuality. The souls of those who die alone, or far from a menhir, shortly dissipate, dissolve, and cease to be. Every soul faces one fate or the other; there is no half-way state. There are no ghosts in the world of the menhir.
Hea has a problem. She has placed a geas of infertility on Rem’s rampant son and has hidden his only child from him, both without the Shambler’s knowledge. That hidden child has grown and sired two sons of his own. Hea has seen that the offspring of the next generation will be a force to save or destroy the world of the menhir. She does not know which. The unborn’s power clouds the runeboard, leaving her uncertain of what path to take.
The Shambler is driven out by his father, then returns to kill him and take control of the army he has raised. Now Hea has to act, but without a clear knowledge of what will result from her actions.
Hea does know that she cannot let the Shambler find out about his offspring. But to watch over them herself would, by her own presence, bring them to the Shambler’s attention. She makes a fatal compromise. She chooses to stand between the soul of a newly dead, Baralia, and her enreithment. Hea makes Baralia a tortured ghost — a soul hung half way between death and her final rest — and forces her to watch over Marquart, who will be the father of the coming nexus of power. It is a fatal error.
If Baralia cannot know peace while Marquart lives, then he will not live long.
* * *
That’s a lot of narrative to densepack into the first eighteen pages of a manuscript. Marquart will be our main character until Tidac, his son, eclipses him in our affection.
We meet Marquart as he enters the Valley of the Menhir. The High King has given him lordship over the Valley, but he isn’t happy about it. He has been dismissed from service, and given this troublesome valley to rule. You’ll get the details over the next two weeks.
Marquart finds that another has taken his place as Lord of the Valley, subdues him handily, and makes a life-long enemy. No matter; he is quite capable of dealing with human enemies. The ghostly figure of Baralia, who will attach herself to him like his personal Iago, is another matter.
The story of Marquart’s first months in the Valley of the Menhir is A Winter Tale, driven by hunger for power, hunger for importance, and the sheer hunger of starvation. Marquart has inherited a land where there are not enough serfs to provide for the mass of useless nobles, and still have enough food for themselves. This is the first problem Marquart sets out to solve.
Normally all this would be presented in Serial, but Raven’s Run will have that side of the double blog tied of for some time yet. A Winter Tale will appear in A Writing Life through the first three weeks of January.